The Ills of Socialized Health Care
You may have caught wind of this, but Burke and I have been sick. Not just cold-sick, not just sick for a few days, but sick every weekend for the last month. Morale has been low; prayers are appreciated. On this fourth weekend of being sick, we agreed that it would be best to go to the doctor. I went home sick from work on Thursday afternoon and Slavo said he would call us that night or the next morning about when we would go to the doctor. I was expecting Slavo to call that night to tell us to be ready at 7am. Because Slovakia is a socialist country, there is always a line at the doctor’s office meaning it is best to go in the mornings right when it opens, so you can imagine my surprise when he told us that we would be going on Friday night instead. Then when the time came, Slavo said that there would be too long of a wait at the doctor’s so we were going to the emergency room. This is where things start to get a little funny.
We arrived at the emergency room and only had to wait a couple of minutes. We went in (Slavo with us, translating) and were greeted by the doctor that we saw for our pre-employment screening. She told Burke to wait outside. I sat down and Slavo described our symptoms: fever with chills, crippling headache, achyness, etc. Pretty clearly some sort of flu. She did not take my temperature, but proceeded to listen to my lungs, have me lay down, and press on my stomach in various places. I had some pain and when it was over she asked Slavo to ask when the pain started. I of course replied that it started when started pushing on my stomach. After this was through, the assistant produced a conical cup of sorts as they solicited for my pee. Gross, but I went to the bathroom across the hall only to find that at this emergency room the WC was very unhygienic: no toilet paper, no hand soap. I went back to the examination room where they were questing Burke. I handed her my urine, she tested it, dumped it, rinsed the cup and handed it to Burke who was directed to do the same.
While Burke was gone I was questioned again. Slavo asked about the symptoms again to clarify for the doctor. She said that it was likely not swine flu because it keeps coming back and that is not typical of swine flu, but if it does come back again we should go to the infectious diseases doctor to be tested for it specifically. Burke came back in and they tested his urine. It must have been pretty disease free because at this point she told us that we had a cold and prescribed us with antibiotics and painkillers. We asked, “But isn’t the difference between a cold and the flu a fever, so wouldn’t this mean we have the flu and not just a cold?” Slavo said probably and explained that the doctor said it could be a few things. Her diagnosis was a cold, but it could be swine flu, and in my case it could also be appendicitis. Pretty wide open, but I have to admit I was glad Burke was there with my same symptoms or I may have gone home without my appendix. Despite our distrust in the diagnosis, the whole ordeal only cost us four euros.
Next we went to pick up our prescriptions. Two boxes of antibiotics and two boxes of painkillers: another four euros. All in all, eight euros and a bogus diagnosis later we have had our first real experience in Slovak medicine. I just hope we don’t get sick. ever. again.
I am glad that you both were able to get some medical treatment and are on the mend. The socialized medicine experience does seem a little surreal to me but not for the reasons that you described. Firstly, if you go to any emergency room in the US, you would have had to wait a minimum of 4 hrs to be seen. My own experience, even with private hospitals in the US, is that emergency rooms are crowded and unclean, especially the restrooms. Also, even with the best insurance, your out of pocket for an emergency room visit is at minimum $100.00 if not admitted unless you are on medicare and even then, it is more than the 8 Euro’s you two had to pay for your visit w/medication. Our medical system in the US is BROKEN and in desperate need of reform. I would gladly use a recycled specimen cup and put up with a little mess in trade for the hours of time that I would have wasted in a US emergency room. Finally, in the end, in a US emergency room, they would not have even offered to check for H1N1 virus if improvements were not realized in a week, and would not have been compassionate enough to offer any kind of pain medication to ease the body and headaches that you two were experiencing. The prescribing of antibiotics for a cold/flu is a little troubling. In the US, they would have sent you home with instructions to drink lots of fluids and ride it out. No urinalysis would have been perfromed to check for any other complications either. Bottom line is your socialized medicine experience may not have been optimal but to me, it sounds like you got good care in a timely manner and I am thankful that you guys are okay.